Friday, March 30, 2012

Race On

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The melt is on, and we are pressed for time--on the track that is. The track at my school, much like all tracks in this state, is buried under feet of snow, slowly melting and icing over as the sun rises and falls. Some years we hit April and we can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, there's still a layer of snow and ice, but it's melting steadily and there's much confidence with a little rain and wind and sun that the beautiful red surface will make an appearance just in time.

This year confidence is waning faster than the snow is melting.

We asked for shovels, a blower, means to plow. Some schools stoop to such measures, but we have run into two problems: 1) Our track surface is less than two years old, and thus preciously guarded against anything that has a blade or potential means to damage. 2) There is so much snow around the track, we can't really get to it anyway.

After multiple rounds in the hallway, the students are tired of the stairs. They are tired of big laps and small laps, drills in the gym, circles on the circuits, jumping into mats. They crave sand for a pit, cushion for their young joints, and the reward of fresh air at the end of the day. Actually, they mostly just don't want to run stairs anymore, the rest is just me.

Two days of temperatures near fifty and I've all but retired my warm-up pants for the year. I have been hurt too many times to believe that these temperatures are here to stay; after all, we dip below fifty even in the middle of July.

Only time will tell if I will put my meet hosting skills to work this year, pulling out stacks of forms and an archaic timing system, and calling in every favor in the school to get people to come out and volunteer. In the mean time, I watch with riveting anticipation. I don't expect people outside of major snow systems to understand this obsession with snow melt, but when the pavement breaks through and small lakes form along the roads an unspoken countdown begins. No one really knows when it'll end, but the promise of summer, of track, of time outside free of layers and boots and gloves, that time is at hand.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wild Things

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Somewhere in the middle of Arizona...


With eight weeks left in the school year and the sun setting after 8:30pm, it's fair to say that spring fever has set in. A friend of mine from the Midwest, who was sharing the eighty degree forecast that has left her and her students with an unseasonably warm March, wondered if our generous snow supply was squelching the onset of end-of-the-year-upheaval.

It isn't.

The snow banks line the roads and the mountains show no signs of life peaking through but the students sense an impending finish, and with it comes antsy behavior that is hard to squelch. No activity is interesting enough when the sun is shining. No book is packed with enough adventure; no field trip filled with enough spark.

Although the student's longing to be out of the classroom makes my job harder, I can't help but sympathize with them. The weekends are feeling short, and the sun has been out full force for days in a row. After a winter filled with blizzards on end and temperatures below zero much more than normal, thirty-five and sunny feels like weather that doesn't even require a coat. Sure, there's not much to do when everything is quickly turning to slush, but time outside--feet soaked or not--lends a taste of freedom that everyone seems to be craving these days.

Unfortunately, we have a few more days to wait before it can become a reality.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Alternate Normals, or Coming Home

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The orange blossoms blooming on my aunt and uncle's back patio drew me in the moment I stepped past the threshold. The smell was overpowering, fragrant evidence of springtime growth that is still weeks away from my home. I was encouraged to pick and consume as much citrus as I desired the few days I was there, and while I lounged in shorts and comfortable breezes we spoke of the natural resources that make any local pained to purchase. For them it is citrus, avocados, and dozens of other locally grown items. For me it is fresh, local fish.

Traveling is an interesting opportunity to examine what has become normal. Seven hours in the middle of the night left me bleary eyed and anxious, while the man a couple benches over snored contentedly at an abandoned gate as a seasoned traveler. My brother-in-law weaves in an out of Los Angeles traffic effortlessly, accelerating and breaking as other drivers dictate speed, while I drive gingerly scanning for ice, rarely dealing with traffic, much more familiar with two lane highways than five lanes in one direction.

Back in my normal, balancing three different classes, one club and a team of 150 students, I return home to a bed that welcomes me with blankets of the appropriate weight and a thermostat that reads colder than anywhere else we had been for over a week. I sleep soundly in this place, with produce that is sometimes tasteless and spring that is weeks away. But even as I revolt against an early alarm, I embrace the late sun that sets on feet of unmelted snow and slushy roads. Because even though normal means work and troubles and controversy and exhaustion, it is real. I can own it. It makes me who I am.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Refreshing My Memory

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Sandals, used liberally for the past few days, are now tucked away while I wait for spring...scheduled to arrive sometime in May.

Modern day travel astounds me at times, especially when I’m transported from seventy degrees and sunny to a place that appears to be stuck in the dead of winter—in just a few hours. When the bags are unpacked, the toiletries replaced, the laundry folded and dinner brewing in the crock pot, the routine I slip so easily back into seems to erase the change of pace that actually took place the nine days prior.

Then, I find evidence that assures me we have indeed been gone.

The trash for our condo complex clearly wasn’t put out last week for Tuesday’s morning collection. I typically put out the trash, and have often found myself wondering who put it out before we moved in. Given the overflow situation that now inhabits our shared garage, I’m half tempted to “forget” this week, and see if they notice.

My running shoes are covered in red dirt. Back when the spring break trip was scheduled in January, I proposed that we visit the Grand Canyon and hike to the river and back as part of our trip. While my timing could have been a bit more strategic (the suggestions was made while Curtis was surviving on very little sleep, and a hike that is clearly challenging sounded like a terrible vacation activity), Curtis eventually came around to the idea. We made our plans: fly into Southern California, travel to Arizona, visit with friends and family along the way, and spend one day hiking up and down 5,000 feet in 16+ miles. Five days later, my legs are finally not protesting every time I ascend or descend stairs. This is crucial given that we live in the third story of our building.

Last, the faint glow of sunshine still lingers on my shoulders. Even as I dress in layers to shield off the cold of our oh-so-present winter, my face holds a bit more color than it did last week. Ever aware of health benefits and drawbacks, we lathered up generously with sunscreen for our seven-hour hike. When we finished the day and washed the dirt off, I was mildly disappointed to find little lingering color of any kind. The next day after an afternoon in the sun playing cards with friends, I found a bit of pink on my arms, evidence of 80 degree temperatures that we had basked in for a few hours. Given that such conditions rarely make such appearances even in the summer, it was a real treat.

Tomorrow reality resumes. Curtis starts a new rotation; I start a new quarter. This finishing segment of the school year is one that is full and fast, often leaving me to catch my breath in late May when the pace finally slows. For this reason I am grateful for times of adventure and rest apart from the routine we typically exist within, even if it seems at times that we never even left.
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Running Away From It All

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Cheering on Deedee, who is running her 30th Iditarod and is one of Curtis's former neighbors...


The Iditarod is in full swing, and we ventured up to the start last weekend to cheer the dogs on their way. Hanging out in the snow, Curtis and I skied around checking out the snow machine parking lots scattered around lakes, watching multiple planes land to take part in the festivities: it was a moment that felt truly Alaskan. With blue skies and mild temperatures, the conditions were nearly perfect, and at the end of the weekend it was all I could do to gather myself up for another week at school.

The last week before spring break is a tough one for teachers and students alike. The teens get antsy, ready for some space and times for themselves. The teachers are exhausted, spending more energy than normal on keeping everyone entertained and on task--anxious themselves for a break from the action. And though our snowy winter continued, putting us within six inches of setting a new record for winter snow accumulation, the skies were blue more often than not, making eight hours inside dreadful.

Curtis packed his bags for break last night, a full 48 hours in advance. Though he was up an hour before me to type notes and catch up on paperwork, I think he relished working one step closer to departure: a time away from work and routine, a time to rest and visit family and hang out with his favorite wife. I've been making my own pile of "things to not forget when packing": my favorite satchel, almost every pair of shorts I own (they don't get a whole lot of use up here, so I really don't have very many), and a collection of summary clothes that used to get used regularly and now sit in a stack in the upper right hand corner of my closet.

The hours before a trip often leave me feeling anxious and unsure, ever wondering what I'm forgetting, endlessly listing tasks to accomplish before departure: download podcasts, wash my favorite pullover, make sure nothing in the fridge will rot. Couple that with the conclusion of the quarter and the push to post grades and file papers and make sure everything is ready for the final nine weeks of the year only doubles my concern that something will be forgotten. And even as those last minute details clutter a mind that is longing for relaxation, I remember that everything will be fine once we're on the road: socks can be replaced, sunscreen can be purchased, and catching up with Curtis negates much of the book reading I plan into our vacations.

Today the school was quiet, the students were absent, and I was able to put my classroom to rest. Tomorrow I'm hoping to do the same with my mind.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Altered Rhythm

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Me, my shadow, a pair of skis, and a wandering moose...

This morning I had fresh mango and toasted coconut in my oatmeal. I put on a dress (with tights and boots, mind you) and packed up for the day, ever aware that it is March: the month when spring begins. Imagine my disappointment to find several fresh inches of snow, frozen windshield wipers, and windows well iced over.

I suppose spring doesn't technically start for three more weeks.

Spring break, on the other hand, is nine days away. It's crunch time in the classroom: papers and projects due, tests to edge in before the quarter ends, grades to post, paperwork to file, and details to get in order. After all, fourth quarter is synonymous with track, the time where chaos abounds, even as I invite it. If my affairs aren't in order before the season starts, I certainly won't get to them until mid May.

Yesterday I went to finale of the latest season, cross country skiing. The local ski championships, a gathering of all the local junior high superstars, is an interesting preview of those that may become future national and international skiing professionals. At no other time have I been so aware of the grace and coordination present in young teens. They may be awkward in my classroom, but they have grown up on carefully waxed blades, wielding poles that propel them faster than I can run, tucking down hills and around corners, navigating undulations in the trail and the occasional fallen comrade.

Watching my students sprint for the finish, rhythmically poling on each stride with balance that most athletes would envy, I remembered how this came to be: very long winters. When you grow up on skis, and have a four and sometimes six month season to perfect your skills, you have an advantage over just about any other location in the country, sometimes the world. And in that moment, I didn't mind that the forecast called for single digits, once again. I appreciated the unique place that I live--even if it means a very white spring.